Showing posts with label EVE Online. Show all posts
Showing posts with label EVE Online. Show all posts

Thursday, April 07, 2022


See the source image

Let's talk about the term "sandbox game".  We'll take a look at a couple games I consider as true sandboxes and a couple that misuse the term.  Through this exploration; the definition -- my definition -- of sandbox will be apparent.

Games I consider as true sandbox games

  • Foxhole
  • Minecraft

Games that need to stop using the term "sandbox"

  • Albion Online
  • Crowfall 

Starting with Foxhole there is a very clear sandbox.  First, I can log in and choose what I want to do and in order to do what I want I need to either pull resources together myself, use resources shared by other players, or steal resources from other players in the Sandbox.  Important to note; the game allows me to choose any path, change path, or blend paths.  In my first couple of hours (outside of the tutorial) I moved seamlessly between logistics (known as logi in game) supplying other players to the frontline where the fighting was at (and once there I switched between playing medic, infantry, and frontline logi).

The "frontline" in Foxhole also illustrates another of my tenants of a sandbox; the world can be changed.  In Foxhole the frontline is defined by the players changing the world.  There is a world map in Foxhole that defines some features (where water bodies are, what area is a mountain, etc) but beyond that everything else is defined by the player.  The frontline area I ventured into was in the middle of a field; one team on one side the other team on the other side.  Our side had dug in foxholes and trenches.  Behind those were numerous medical tents and forward bases; all placed by players.  A little further back a group of players were working on a hardened base with cement fortifications.  Somewhere in the middle were players setting up long range artillery.  All of this build up was defined by the players choosing exactly what to build and where to build it.

Another key aspect to the build up was that the resources came from the game itself.  Every gun, bullet, bandage, and piece of building material was manufactured by a player somewhere and then transported by a player in a player-crafted vehicle to that area.  Nothing happens in Foxhole without a player somewhere putting in the work to make it happen.  And the end result?  A sandcastle that can be smashed by the other kids in the sandbox who can then take that sand and make their own castle you get to smash.

The frontlines of Foxhole are exactly why Foxhole is a true sandbox game; they are defined by the players collecting from and manipulating the world with minimal restriction and that manipulation has meaningful impact on the game.

In summary; what we take away from Foxhole in regards to the term sandbox:

  1. The world is made of resources that players make use of (i.e. "the sand")
  2. The game world itself can be changed by the players (i.e. "can make sand castles")
  3. Those changes by players have meaningful impact (i.e. "sand castles can be smashed")
  4. There is minimum restrictions on what can be done where (i.e. "build my sand castle anywhere / permanent sand castles aren't already built")
  5. Players can move between roles seamlessly (i.e. "eat sand if want to")

If we roll what we learned from Foxhole into Minecraft we see that we hit all of the marks at an entirely new level. In my opinion Minecraft is the truest sandbox game in existence.

  1. In Minecraft the world is literally made of resources that players make use of without almost any restrictions. 
  2. Players can change the world in Minecraft; to a degree well beyond what a game like Foxhole allows.  
  3. Changes to the world in Minecraft have direct impact.  If I dig a hole straight down and a pig falls into it... well... bacon.  
  4. As mentioned and bearing repeating there is little restriction in what you can manipulate in Minecraft
  5. Players in Minecraft can be in combat one second and digging that bacon hole the next; there is no concept of a role in Minecraft.  The player do anything at any time.

So that covers items 1 and 2 from my Foxhole list.  The question is then; is there any other tenants of sandbox games that Minecraft brings to the table? 

Those changes by players have meaningful impact (i.e. "sand castles can be smashed")

Somewhat already covered by the bacon hole example, but to expand on the impact players can have in Minecraft I'll talk about multiplayer servers as that's the closest equivalent to the MMO space.  On a multiplayer server under non-modded players are free to modify the world however they see fit.  If player A stacks two blocks then player B can break those two blocks and if they so choose place them somewhere else.  If player A digs a bacon hole then player B could fall into it ending in death.  There have been numerous "chaos" servers whereby the entire world becomes an apocalyptic wasteland with anything resembling order quickly converted to chaos by the players.

There is minimum restrictions on what can be done where (i.e. "build my sand castle anywhere / permanent sand castles aren't already built")

At the end of the day some form of restriction will always exist in games just as even in the real life sandbox there is eventually an end to the sand and physical limits on what you can do with it.  Minecraft is no exception here.  But Minecraft goes a long way in minimizing restriction.  For example; I can build a house out of any material that I can dig up and stack.  A fond memory for every Minecraft survival player is that makeshift shelter of dirt and wood blocks hastily assembled to survive the first night.  For the most part; if you can dream it you can build it in Minecraft.  Journey into the world of mods and the sky is the limit.

Players can move between roles seamlessly (i.e. "eat sand if want to")

Minecraft has no real concept of a role.  One moment the player is digging a hole and the next they are in combat and the next they are an interior decorator in their home.  The only requirement is that you need to have picked up some sand and turned it into whatever you need for the activity you want to do.

With the exploration of the "true sandbox" that is Minecraft let's look at some not-a-sandbox offenders in the MMO space.

The one that jumps immediately to mind, mostly because the owning company uses sandbox in their name, is Albion Online by Sandbox Interactive.  Interestingly enough their video for "What is Albion Online?" goes a long way trying to defend it's place as a sandbox.  Let's go through the checklist.

  1. The world is made of resources that players make use of (i.e. "the sand")
    • All items in the game, from weapons to the bed you place in your house, are made from resources gathered from the world.  Players have to gather those resources and use them or trade them for others to use.  The big issue I have here as I'll also touch on later is that those resources are static, always replenish themselves, and harvesting them has no noticeable effect on the world (they will be back in the same spot in a few minutes for the next player).
  2. The game world itself can be changed by the players (i.e. "can make sand castles")
    • Some may argue that players can change the game world, but I'd have a hard time buying the argument.  Resource nodes are static; always in the same place and players just keep harvesting and the resources keep re spawning.  Players can manage their own personal or guild islands; placing houses and items but that is all instanced off from the main world.  Outside of some zone control mechanisms and hide outs that are placed in the outer zones; players have no practical effect on the world.  What is on the world map today will be there tomorrow and the day after and the day after.
  3. Those changes by players have meaningful impact (i.e. "sand castles can be smashed")
    • As noted in #2; players have little impact on the world itself.  But I will give Albion points here because of the crafting and the fact that every item in the game was crafted by a player at some point and the material for that crafted item was gathered by a player.  
  4. There is minimum restrictions on what can be done where (i.e. "build my sand castle anywhere / permanent sand castles aren't already built")
    • Albion is a combat-focused game.  While there is housing, farming, and some other activities on personal islands these are all just mini-games.  The game world is built and outside of things changing ownership (like a shop being bought by another player) most everything is already built and placed in the game.
  5. Players can move between roles seamlessly (i.e. "eat sand if want to")
    •  Albion ties a player's role to the gear they have equipped.  Want to be a mage?  Throw on a robe and grab a staff.  Want to be a warrior?  Grab a sword and heavy armor.  Each piece of gear grants the user an ability.  Players can change gear at anytime, but must "level up" each type of gear in order to equip higher tier versions. Crafting is mostly driven through a level up system but requires access to crafting stations so while any player can do it there is gating mechanism.

Final Judgement? Albion Online has some sandbox aspects but is far from the "king of sandbox MMORPGs" that it tries to bill itself as.  With that said; don't let this scare you off of the game.  I played it for several months and absolutely loved the time I spent with the game.  It is on the short list of MMOs I'd recommend and on the even shorter list of MMOs with original ideas; it just is not a sandbox.

Next on the evaluation list is EVE Online.

  1. The world is made of resources that players make use of (i.e. "the sand")
    • The world of EVE is massive; a series of interconnected sectors of space.  When playing it can often feel endless.  Within the endless space are asteroid belts to mine and enemies (affectionately known as "rats") to farm.  These make up the sand by which the sand castles (ships, space stations, and more) are built.
  2. The game world itself can be changed by the players (i.e. "can make sand castles")
    • EVE gets a good score on this item.  Players can build and manage space stations in many areas of the game.  The only issue is that the game world is broken down into different levels of areas and in the "safe" areas there is not much from a player perspective that can be changed.  It is already defined by the game in these areas.  However the heart of the game is played in the "low security" zones where players define and control almost everything.  From my time playing EVE I learned the hard way that you don't show up unannounced to an area owned by someone else.
  3. Those changes by players have meaningful impact (i.e. "sand castles can be smashed")
    • As noted in item #2 players have direct impact on the world outside the safe zones.  There are numerous legends
  4. There is minimum restrictions on what can be done where (i.e. "build my sand castle anywhere / permanent sand castles aren't already built")
    • As noted in other answers the game is divided into different areas with different impacts on players.  In the far reaches of space in the low security zones there is very little restriction to what can be done as long as players spend the time to collect the requisite sand and toys.  In the safer areas the rules ensure sandbox enthusiasts are not stealing each other's toys.
  5. Players can move between roles seamlessly (i.e. "eat sand if want to")
    • This is an area where EVE falls down and ultimately was why I gave up on the game when I played.  Skill progression is tied to real world time.  Players set a skill to accumulate points which accumulate whether playing or not.  Players that have played for years have years worth of skill points accumulated.  There is no time machine for a newer player to catch up.   This limits the roles that an EVE player can enjoy. While fundamentally the game allows the player to change what they are doing at any point; functionally it is hardcore time gated as to be infeasible.

Final judgement?  EVE can count as a sandbox, but is best for those that are looking for a multi-year engagement to get that experience.  EVE is another game on the short list of recommended MMOs and that shorter list of games doing something unique.

 Now let's look at Crowfall.  All I'll ask "Sandbox?  Really?  REALLY!!??".

  1. The world is made of resources that players make use of (i.e. "the sand")
    • Crowfall does have resources to gather and those resources are used to make things.  Like Albion Online points are deducted here because the resources are static and respawn endlessly.  While there are is a campaign mechanic where campaign areas are time-limited (i.e. they go away after a month) and thus the resources within that campaign are not available forever; the practical reality is that another campaign will replace the current one and feature the same resources.
  2. The game world itself can be changed by the players (i.e. "can make sand castles")
    • Players can take control of castles and zones, but there is almost nothing that players can do to change the world.  There are "eternal kingdoms" (EKs) where players can build their own personal or guild zone.  EKs feature a lego-like building toolset.  If that toolset was part of the full game experience and not just a side feature for EKs then maybe I could see sandbox fitting but in it's limited state for EKs only it does not get any points.
  3. Those changes by players have meaningful impact (i.e. "sand castles can be smashed")
    •  As noted in #2 there is not much of anything the players impact so zero points here for Crowfall.
  4. There is minimum restrictions on what can be done where (i.e. "build my sand castle anywhere / permanent sand castles aren't already built")
    • Crowfall is a standard class-based MMO and zones are on rails.  In effect the entire game is one of restriction when it comes to my sandbox tenants.  Zero points here for Crowfall.
  5. Players can move between roles seamlessly (i.e. "eat sand if want to")
    • I repeat; Crowfall is a standard class-based MMO.  While players can slot crafting/gathering disciplines to change up what they are at the end of the day you are the class and race combination of your character and to change requires you to change your character.  Crowfall tried to advertise the concept of changing roles as changing "your vessel/crow"; whereby a character is really a vessel and you are jumping in and out of the worlds as different vessels.  In reality it's no different than changing characters in any MMO that allows you to have multiple characters.

Final judgement? Crowfall is not anywhere close to a sandbox and should not use the term.  My prior posts on Crowfall will give you my opinion on the game.  I'd not recommend it and it is not doing anything all that exciting or different.  It's a crappy World-of-Warcraft-a-like.

As can be surmised from my rambling I have a tendency to be attracted to games that purport to be sandbox experiences.  Then I play them and realize they fail to hit my key tenants of a sandbox as influenced heavily by Minecraft - yet I still enjoy and recommend some of them.  What that boils down to say is that games that advertise as sandboxes are really saying "I am different" and for anyone that knows me I tend to jump on the "I am different" bandwagons.  I'd still prefer that sandbox was more indicative of Minecraft-like experiences and thus not used in error by games like Crowfall. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday Gaming Deals 2013

Video Game Deals video game deals (limited quantity, new deals cycling on all day/weekend)
Some of my personal picks:
EVE Online The Second Decade collector's edition (price reduced starting at 4:10p PST today)
Starcraft 2 Heart of the Swarm (price reduced starting at 8:10p PST today)
For those of you with Skylander-obsessed kids: buy 2, get 1 free Skylanders SWAP force characters

Steam Autumn Sale
General Steam sale rules:
1. Don't buy a game until the last day of the sale unless it is on a daily sale
2. Flash sales are often repeated
3. Don't hesitate to buy a daily deal as the available keys can run out
4. The best deals are usually repeated the last day of the sale

Board Game Deals still has their buy one, get one half off deal for board games.  See my previous post on the sales and my recommendations.

Target also has buy one, get one half off on their board games (slightly different selection than Amazon).

Cool Stuff Inc is running some good deals on board, card, and miniature games.\

Miniature Market started their sale yesterday and had some really great deals (like Netrunner data packs for $7), but it appears a ton of their stock is sold out already.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bastion, thoughts on MMOs

I've played through Bastion once. I am playing through it again on the New Game + mode. Bastion is the rare type of game that comes in, makes a remarkable impression, and then leaves before its stuck around too long. It also has my juices flowing for a bunch of thoughts about things I'd like to see in an MMO.

The first and most unique element of Bastion is the narrator which narrates not only the story, but the player's every move. When I first talked about Bastion's narration to my wife she commented "so he just repeats back to you what you just did? That's annoying!". I attempted to sidetrack her from that position by showing her some of the game, but then "the kid" (the game's protagonist) picked up a giant hammer to which the narrator announced "the kid picks up his trusty hammer". My wife laughed and walked away. While this example is the game's narration at it's most basic it is not truly the genius that exists later in the game. The narrator is seemless, delivering not only the story but also filling in the gaps between fights and everything else that occurs in the game. By the time I finished Bastion I was a bit sad to say good bye to the narrator. I had grown accustomed to listening to his voice through my journey. It probably doesn't hurt that they have one of the best voice actors ever providing the voice and paired it with an award-winning sound track.

Where would a constant narrator fit into an MMOG? The first immediate example that comes to mind is Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO). I know I gave DDO a bunch of hate because it was just an RPG set in the D&D Eberron setting and because it missed the boat as far as what makes D&D fun (at least for me). With my personal tastes aside, DDO to a certain degree does have a narrator in place, known as the dungeon master. When adventuring through various dungeon areas the dungeon master will announce certain things such as the "the air hums with flies here" or "the smell of decaying flesh permeates". Usually these pieces of flavor are added for things that are hard to represent in a video game (smells for example). I wasn't sold on the idea when I played DDO, but having played Bastion now I think a dungeon master that follows your entire adventure and provides constantly evolving narration to your activities would work. The real trick would be making it work in a multi-player setting, which given some time I think a developer could work out.

The next outstanding feature of Bastion is it's namesake. The Bastion is a sliver of land, floating over the destroyed world that "the kid" is able to rebuild throughout the process of the game. Each area completed generally results in a shard being obtained. The shard can be brought back to the Bastion to restore a piece of the old world. These restored parts take the form of buildings that allow the player to perform different functions. In addition to the shards there are also relics from the old world that can be placed in the Bastion. Everything from a set of banners to a smoker's pipe add flavor to the player's Bastion. Some are for show and others serve other purposes (such as launching a side quest). Over time there is a real sense of progression to the Bastion.

Now it has always been my dream to have an MMO where the players are tasked with building the world from the ground up. The storyline in Bastion is the classic post-apocalyptic hotbed of building an oasis in the middle of a world wracked by destruction. This, to me, is the perfect setting for an MMO to launch into. It lets the players decide the pace at which the world progresses. Players hold the keys and make the decisions that will forever change their existence in the world. The so called "fourth pillar" of MMOGs is touted to be "story", but why does that story always have to be something the developers created? Why can't it be the story the player's create?

For bonus points, Bastion gets the mechanic for this world building correct as well. Players retrieve shards or relics that have immediate affects on their Bastion. In the case of shards, the player get's to spend them as a sort of currency to build the buildings they wish to have in the Bastion. This is almost directly transferable to an MMOG. Player's would be tasked with retrieving "shards" from the old, destroyed world to use and build items in the new world. Each player would have their slice of the new world in which to build. Guilds and alliances can join together to focus on improving a shared area.

Another part of the Bastion experience that makes the game so refreshing is the idea of player-directed difficulty via the in-game idols. Players can go to their shrine and activate idols they have unlocked. Each idol makes the game inherently more difficult. For example, one idol makes it so enemies randomly block one attack. The reward is increased experience gains and in-game currency. It's a simple idea, but something not seen in an MMO outside of the idea of "heroic" versions of some dungeons. Now it would be a challenge to develop, but I think an MMO could have every player set their own idols to dictate their own difficulty. The challenge would be in making it play nice together with other player's idols.

The other part of the shrine that works so well is that it's not just a UI element in Bastion. It is an actual building the player has fought to restore for the sole purpose of using it's services. This gives better weight to the player setting their idols and takes something that in most MMOs is just a UI element and makes it part of the world. Everything in Bastion is managed via these buildings that the player builds. Want to change your equipment load out? Head to the armory and swap them. Want to change your unique character traits? Head to the distillery.

Oh and the distillery. Let me talk about that. It's a brilliant idea just like the shrine is.  In the distillery player's set up "spirits" (aka alcoholic beverages) which modify how the player's avatar works.  Some add straight up stats like +10 health while others are more complex such as offering a counter attack mechanic.  However, the beauty really isn't in the details.  It's in the fact that the distillery takes the monotony of the stats screen out of the UI and inserts it into a practical in-game solution.  It doesn't hurt that the player can visit the distillery at any time to "respec" their character.

I understand some of the ideas I bring up here are not entirely original and in most cases there is an example game on the market that exhibits some of the traits that I mention. However, there really hasn't been a mainstream game that has attempted to tackle any of these elements. "The game that shall not be named" with full on voice acting does cover some of the narration, but it is not dynamic and at it's base level is still just uninteresting filler for quests. Bastion's narration is so far above and beyond that it's hard to compare. A Tale in the Desert covers the "let's build a world together", but really that's about all it has. Plenty of MMOGs feature "hard" or "elite" versions of dungeons, quests, or monsters which sort of works out to be like the idols of Bastion, but that's a loose connection at best. The "UI-built-into-the-game" element would be a first for MMOGs, as far as I know. In fact, a lot of MMOGs are more about the UI then the actual game (I'm looking at you EVE and at you World of Add Ons), so seeing an MMOG work towards removing as much of the UI as possible would be interesting.

My concluding point is that we haven't seen an MMO that incorporates a lot of what I've talked about and that's a damn shame.  Bastion feels like a really simple idea, but its clearly taken time for something of it's caliber to hit the market. It's a brilliant game and in my opinion, a blue print for a successful MMOG.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Are CCP and EVE Online back on track?

There is no doubt that EVE Online’s biggest crutch has been its own developers; CCP.  First it was CCP employees giving unfair advantages and preferential treatment to certain in game corporations (aka guilds/clans).  Next it was the micro-transaction debacle and the community unanimously agreeing that CCP was being greedy.  The core community around EVE was starting to crumble and CCPs only answers seemed to be projects completely unrelated to the core of what made EVE tick (Dust 514, virtual monocles, other games like World of Darkness).
This culminated in CCP finally realizing they were overextended as a company.  So they shut down a studio and fired a bunch of people.  They also figured out that it was about time they started to focus on the core of EVE Online before continuing with any of the peripheral nonsense that had gotten them in so much trouble as a company.  The direct result of that refocus is the Crucible expansion.
With the Crucible expansion CCP is returning to the basics of EVE, such as introducing new ships, squashing bugs, and improving the “it’s more like a spreadsheet than a game” user interface.  And that is just a brief overview of what is getting worked on with Crucible.  CCP appears to be digging down deep to work on many of the long-standing, yet minor issues that have plagued the game while at the same time taking a hard look at polishing things such as starbase management and fleet vs fleet engagements.  Graphical flair through engine trails and updated space backgrounds are also featured.
Most important to note is that nothing is mentioned about virtual monocles, console FPS spin offs, or Iceland’s volcanic history.  Crucible is aimed 100% at the core of EVE Online and CCP is selling this as redemption for their past missteps. 
Reading over the notes and feature set for Crucible I can only draw the conclusion that CCP is committed to getting EVE Online back on track.  There are several excellent improvements going into the game with Crucible, some that should have been fixed long ago (like the damn UI font).  I’m sincerely hoping CCP has learned their lessons and they will take better care of EVE Online going forward.
EVE is still the MMO that I’ve always wanted to play and these are the type of changes that will continue to interest players like me.  Unfortunately, I can’t justify a monthly subscription for an MMO with my very limited play time.  Also, I’ve already experienced the gambit EVE has to offer: massive warfare, getting ganked, “rat”ting, and watching your corp implode as the corp leader robs the coffers bare.  Someday I hope I can return and just be a lonely jackass pirate ganking newbs two jumps outside of Jita.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tobold's MMORPG Blog: The forum lies

Tobold's MMORPG Blog: The forum lies

Tobold offer's up an excellent analysis of Ben Cousin's (of EA) speech about Battlefield Hero's "pay to win" model.
Weapons for real money were introduced that were better than any weapons you could get by playing, and simultaneously it was made harder to play for free.
I wanted to nitpick something Tobold said:
Thus when the CEO of CCP recently commented the uproar of the EVE community on a similar issue with "I can tell you that this is one of the moments where we look at what our players do and less of what they say", he was completely right. The forum lies.
First, comparing EVE to Battlefield Heroes is an apples to oranges comparison. EVE is and will continue to be a subscription game and unlike most subscription games, EVE ties A LOT of a player's power into how LONG they've been a paying subscriber. BF:H started as and continues to be a free to play game which players can now spend money on to have an advantage.

While BF:H simply changed to make it a bit harder to play the game for free, the proposed changes for EVE threatened to undermine the entire structure upon which the game was built.  To emphasis this point, the EVE changes threatened to undue years of commitment from loyal customers who were PAYING TO PLAY THE GAME. EVE was not in threat of closing.  CCP appeared to be trying to squeeze more money of of their paying players simply because they thought they could.  EVE was not in danger of closing down as BF:H was.

It was not just the forums that were ablaze over the EVE debacle.  It was the entire EVE community, from fan sites to the elected player representatives.  There was a consistent message on all fronts "DON'T FUCKING DO IT CCP".  

Secondly, I would caution that while forums may "lie" in general, there is still valuable feedback to be found amongst the noise.  While only 2% of players may post on the forums, I guarantee there is another 10% that have the same exact complaints and/or feedback as the forum posters.  The danger is that 10% is silent when they leave the game. 

Monday, August 09, 2010

MMO Developers: Read this, learn from it

Gamasutra has an article posted wherein CCP outlines their design philosophy behind EVE Online's single-server design. It's an amazing read and no blurb I can quote from it does it justice.  But I'll throw a teaser out to get you to click on over:
The real solution to this problem is to embrace the notion that in an MMO, just like in any other social network, players are the content. Once that is accepted as a fundamental design guideline, it becomes easier to navigate the challenges involved in creating and maintaining a single shard architecture and actually gives the advantage to that design model.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Self-Serving PC Gaming Wish-List

It's not my birthday, but I was inspired by Alec Meer's birthday post over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

I want these things.
  • A Free 2 Play Warhammer Online.
  • A fantasy-based EVE Online (where is World of Darkness anyways?).
  • A Shadowbane that doesn't make me want to vomit on my keyboard.
  • Battlefield 1942 recreated in Battlefield: Bad Company 2's engine, destructible environments and all.
  • An announcement from 38 studios on what their MMOG will be.
  • To figure out what ever happened to Project Offset.
  • Some sort of hypno-therapy that makes me incredible at FPS games overnight.
  • To never see or hear the phrase “dumbed-down” again
  • A loaf of bread.
  • My kid's two front teeth (teething sucks btw)

NOTE: Yes, I stole a couple of Alec's ideas and changed or did not change the words slightly.

Friday, December 04, 2009

On Monetizing MMO Blogs

Recently, I asked for some feedback on the site, as well as opinions on MMO bloggers monetizing their blogs.

First, I run advertisements in three forms on this blog currently: in-line text ads, search traffic only ads, and referral links. The first two are powered by Chitika and pay per click. The referral links are to and pay a percentage of any purchases made via that link.

What do you need the money for?

The biggest question that people ask me is what I do with the money I earn. The blog is free to host on Google's Blogger, so there are no web costs (outside of an annual $10 domain registration fee). And it's pretty obvious I don't make my living doing this.

I use the money to pay for some of my gaming. When my blog was more popular (my traffic is down 50%+ this year), I made enough for a monthly subscription to an MMO. Recently, I have used it to micro-transact in games like Battlefield Heroes and Domain of Heroes.

However, since I've not played a subscription game in a while, I have pocketed a good amount of the money made (actually its sitting in my Paypal account). My most recent game purchases have been covered by bonuses I've gotten from work.

The referral links pay out via Amazon gift certificates. When I earn enough for my first gift certificate there, I will purchase more games, books, and movies to write about on this blog.

For the most part, the money earned here can be viewed as an investment back into the blog. However, it still leaves me sitting on a pile of cash that I haven't spent and I am going to work out a percentage to donate to Child's Play (my favorite charity). Going forward, charity will have a lot to do with the money made here after my minimal new web costs are covered (I am bringing some new stuff online in the near future).


Surprisingly, most people that left feedback were fine with bloggers monetizing their blogs as long as it wasn't intrusive or contradicting(for example, gold seller ads when I am against gold selling). Chitika has been good about running legit advertisements, but they rarely match search ads to anything my readers would be interested in.

The referral links are more targeted. If I talk about a game, I will usually link to the games page on Amazon. If I review a book or movie, I will also link to Amazon. Or when Amazon runs deals like $3 in FREE MP3s, I will link to the promotional page and collect referrals as people cash in the free codes. This is hit or miss, but is the least intrusive of all advertising and the most honest.

With the feedback gathered, I think I am going to move towards straight referral-based advertising and be more open about my links. Along with the charitable giving, I am hoping this honesty will spur some purchases!

Lastly, I am going to take down the in-line text ads, as well as the search based ads from Chitika on the main page. I'm always open to advertising opportunities, so some form of automated advertising may return in the future.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Scott Jennings in Left Field, Finds Dust

I predicted that in 2009:
8. An MMO project will come out of left field this year and surprise us all. Scott Jennings may or may not be involved, but he’ll blog about it regardless.
Sure enough, Scott Jennings does not disappoint. Read his blog post: CCP comes out of left field, shoots everyone in head. So, he's not involved, but he blogged about. For those keeping count, that's TWO predictions proven true this year.

Personally, I don't feel this has come out of left field. When CCP announced Dust 514, a lot of us suspected it was their fabled and quasi-demonstrated first person avatars addition to EVE Online. Sure enough, they've announced it as such:
The announcement, with the trailer tagline of “one universe, one war”, came at the end of a talk about the history of CCP. It left many GDC Europe keynote attendees — perhaps expecting an announcement for World Of Darkness, CCP’s other rumored project — significantly surprised.

The trailer, with slick in-game graphics, showcased a space station and then impressive first-person shooter gameplay. Petursson said that Dust 514 is “our take on a console MMO”, and was made after the company “looked hard at what people wanted to do on consoles”.

In fact, when Dust 514 launches, the map of EVE, currently divined only by player structures owned in the PC game, will also take into account infantry successes and failures within the console game. Players in the PC MMO can “fund mercenaries and give them goals” in the console title.

CCP’s Petursson hope that “these communities will meld over time”, expecting specific Dust 514 corporations to start with, but eventually social structures that bridge across the two. He quipped of the new game and the relationship between the two titles: “While the fleet does the flying, the infantry does the dying.”
So, I have to disagree that its as far out of "left field" as Jennings makes it out to be. Maybe I can bite on the console and PC interaction, but overall it was pretty much expected.

I'm interested, but I have to see it in action (outside of a developer walk through) before I can give my blessing. I am still not enthused by how CCP treats the EVE community, letting a few gremlins cause a shit-ton of damage for no other reason than CCP can't control their own developers, let alone the community.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Everytime I think about maybe (just maybe) going back to enjoy some EVE Online, I read something like this:
In another demonstration of developer misconduct CCP renamed Kenzoku to Band of Brothers Reloaded. This has never been done for an alliance, character, or corporation, ever.
CCP has designed a great virtual world, but hell is going to freeze over before they get control of their own personnel and the players they insist on helping out of the deep end of the pool.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Anyone Honestly Surprised?

Imagine that, big-time exploiters ousted in EVE Online.
CCP Games has uncovered an exploit in Eve Online that survived in the game for 4 years and may have had a massive impact on the game and game economy. The exploit allowed player owned stations (POS) to generate massive amounts of resources without much work (basically, the game would automatically fill the station's storage silos overnight).
It just goes to show that no amount of economists or player councils can stop the scum of the MMO universe. I was kind of amazed that EVE escaped the massive player-banking scam not too long ago and I suspect the same will happen here. EVE players are just too blinded to realize CCP is the MMO equivalent of the Illinois government.

Monday, April 14, 2008

CCP = Epic Fail

Not much to say here: Eve Online Client Source Code Leaked.
Full source code for the client for popular MMORPG Eve Online was made available recently via BitTorrent on The Pirate Bay. Along with the torrent, the user posts a chat transcript with a representative identified as [IA]Morpheus from Eve’s developer and publisher CCP. In the lengthy and scatological exchange, the poster of the source code attempts to get some answers about CCP’s much maligned security practices, particularly concerning the rife issue of bots and scripting in their flagship game. The conversation was a little less than professional.
I'm sure that player government-thing will get right on this one.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

News Bits

World of Warcraft has officially hit the 10 million active subscribers mark. A lot of people, including myself, predicted this as a year-end goal of 2007. We were close. Also, a bit of clarification on what a subscriber is:
Blizzard defines subscribers as those who have paid a subscription fee or are using an active prepaid card, as well as those who have purchased the game and are within their free month of access. Internet Game Room players who have accessed the game during the last 30 days are also counted as subscribers, but players under free promotional subscriptions, expired or canceled subscriptions and expired prepaid cards are excluded. WoW currently totals more than 2 million subscribers in Europe, more than 2.5 million in North America and approximately 5.5 million in Asia.
Next, there is news that EVE Online will be available via Steam, Valve Software's digital distribution platform. As a fan of Valve and a regular game-buyer through Steam, I am pleased to see MMOs make the move to the platform. Unfortunately, most MMOs are linked with publishers that only sell boxes, or that have their own digital distribution platforms. Unfortunately, I have yet to find anything as good as Steam.

Lastly, some sad news out of Hollywood. Heath Ledger has kicked the bucket. The only question I have: how does a great actor like Heath Ledger die and a walking reason for abortion like Britney Spears remain alive?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

My Top 10 MMOs

Via F13. (read the rules if you are going to post your own top 10). Now onto my list, with some explanations following each choice.

1. World of Warcraft - Millions, yes millions, of subscribers. Penetration into non-gaming media on a large scale. To me, there is no argument against WoW being #1.
2. Ultima Online - Developed before there was a real market, didn't copy anyone, and remains a unique experience. Oh, and player housing!
3. Star Wars Galaxies - Included for POTENTIAL. This was billed as the first game with the POTENTIAL to attract a million players. Sadly, it proved there are no sure things in this market.
4. Guild Wars - First mainstream title to go completely against the grain of the subscription model. Proved that it can be done, but more importantly, it can be sustained in the long run.
5. Dark Age of Camelot - Showed that timing and smooth launches are equitable to success in the market. Plus, DAoC proved that the little guy can get it done with a smart plan.
6. WWII Online - MMOFPS? Yes.
7. EVE Online - Another POTENTIAL inclusion. The game itself isn't spectacular, but the design behind it is begging to be turned into something great.
8. Lord of the Rings Online - I compare LotRO directly to Star Wars Galaxies. There are no sure things, even when the developers play it extremely safe. Lower than expected, only because THERE IS NO FUCKING MAGIC IN LORD OF THE RINGS TURBINE!
9. Everquest - Only mentioned for being brave enough to bring 3D graphics into the genre.
10. MUD 1 - The literal "birth of online gaming" can not go unmentioned.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

CCP Tries To Explain Themselves: Fails

Dr. Erlendur S. Thorsteinsson, EVE Online Software Group's director, has a lengthy post trying to explain the Best Bug Ever.
Shortly after releasing EVE Online: Trinity at 22:04 GMT on Wednesday, 5 December, we started receiving reports that the Classic to Premium graphics content upgrade was causing problems to players by deleting the file C:\boot.ini, which is a Windows system startup file. In some cases the computer was not able to recover on the next startup and would not start until the file had been fixed. In this dev blog I want to tell you how this happened.
He goes on to answer a few questions.
Why doesn't Windows protect its system startup files?
That's a good question, one that I have asked myself in these last few days and wish I knew the answer. But of course I'm not going to blame Microsoft for our mistake. Windows doesn't protect those files and therefore software developers must take care not to touch them. We should have been more careful.
I have to take offense to this answer. The question that needed to be asked: why was a file named the same as a critical Windows system file knowing full-well that EVE Online (like most games) will be played and PATCHED on an account with administrative privileges?

This could of been Linux and an fstab file with the same outcome; a PC that doesn't boot correctly. It baffles me that someone this high up in the company would even attempt to answer this question and state "I'm not going to blame Microsoft". I'm sorry, Dr. Erlendur S. Thorsteinsson, but it sure sounds like you are saying part of the blame goes to Microsoft.

Of course the answer to why the file was named boot.ini:
The answer is really "legacy"; it has been like that since 2001 when the file was introduced on the server and later migrated over to the client in 2002, so this file has been with us for over 6 years. We are reviewing all filenames and changing the name of any file that conflicts with Windows.
Or as I like to call it: lazy-assedness.

Reading through the comments, many EVE Online players are giving CCP props for full disclosure. Unfortunately, CCP really doesn't have a choice at this point in EVE Online's life with all the other drama that has swirled around the game.

The entire post details a breakdown of the most basic principals that guide any software project, from a Hello World! to Google. And I can't believe they DON'T have a single machine setup in their testing environment that mirrors what someone would be using at home (Windows XP installed on a single drive, game being played and patched on an administrator account).

All told, in the end, 215 users seem to have been affected. That is 215 too many.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Best Bug Ever

The latest EVE Online patch seems to have come with a wonderful side effect for Windows XP users.
After a large number of PCs stopped working following installation of the new Trinity patch for Eve Online, developers CCP were able to confirm that the patch deletes the boot.ini file from Windows XP machines. What this means is that XP users who downloaded and applied the patch within the first few hours (the patch has now been taken down) cannot reboot their PC.
This, along with other FUBAR moments from CCP, really speaks to a poor quality assurance process and a lacking sense that any of the management at CCP has control over the EVE Online project.

Secondly, I don't understand how there are not safeguards in place to prevent such a disaster from going live? The split-second a programmer typed "delete boot.ini", warning bells should have gone off that the code needed to be triple-checked for accuracy. More cowbell maybe?

Fortunately, the problem is easily fixed for the tech savvy. However, knowing that the most addicted EVE players were probably the first to download and install the patch, I have to wonder how many of them ran out to the nearest PC hardware store to start swapping out parts. Actually, I LOL in real life just thinking about that, because at one point in my life I may have done the same thing.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

What EVE Could Do to Bring Back Players

I hold no reservations about EVE Online. It is a very well designed game, albeit owned by an otherwise poorly run company named CCP. EVE is like a good wine, aging well and accruing value with every passing year. If that sounds conflicted, it is. I am still conflicted over the game.

I enjoyed my time playing EVE, but the game is inherently punishing towards it's newer players. Also, I spent more time researching things outside of the game, than I did playing. My first character was completely gimped and without a delete and restart I would have spent months catching up. I stopped playing, but kept paying to advance my skills. Eventually my two cents kicked in and I canceled my subscription. Just in time fortunately, as my corporation's leader decided to dump the corporation in classic EVE form: by stealing all the ISK, kicking all the members, and stealing every last BPO and ship possible.

So, what spurs me to post about EVE today? First off, CCP, invited Richard Bartle to speak at a recent panel for the EVE Fan Faire. Bartle told them that their plan to democratise the player to company interactions would fail.
The panel I was on this morning is now over. As insulting your hosts go, I think I did well (sigh).

Basically, CCP (the EVE Online developers) want to democratise their virtual world because they have so many players that they're being overwhelmed by suggestions for ways to change or improve their virtual world. They want a council of players to put the best ideas to them, with the council-members decided by popular vote. I told them that this wouldn't work because CCP still had the final say (they're gods, not a government), so the players actually had no new powers at all. However, using the word "democracy" would give them the impression they did have power, so it would all end in tears when they discovered that they didn't.
That sums up my opinion on the matter fairly well. Honestly, the whole move smells of marketing to save face for numerous past misgivings. CCP needs to concentrate on improving the experience it provides to the average player, not spin political mumbo jumbo with a few hardcore elite.

The second news item that brings me to EVE: patch notes. No, I'm not going to break down all the notes. I just wanted to point out the inclusion of both a Linux and Mac client for the game. Other than that, nothing of interest for any ex-EVE players looking for a reason to come back.

However, that is the reason I am here. There is a couple changes that would definitely make me reconsider coming back at some point.

1. With an account that is 6-months or older, allow players to set skills to train without paying a monthly subscription. This will allow interested players to return down the line without having to worry that they will be years behind in training. ISK will still be a limiting factor in how much of an impact these players can have by themselves.

For some evidence that this would work, we just need to look back at the five day period where all accounts were reopened. Several of my friends reopened their accounts just to set a long skill to train with the plan of someday playing again.

2. Allow skill training to be automated. When I was playing, nothing sucked worse than losing time because you could not log in to set a new skill to train. EVE needs a skill template system where players can load a template from a website and have their training automatically set itself. I don't believe any current EVE player would argue that this would not be a benefit to the game.

Unfortunately, CCP seems far too wrapped up in political bullshit and graphical updates to care.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

EVE, CCP, and Players

This is what happens when a developer lets their players take over a game. It is also a case study for why official forums are a bad idea. In the end though, it is just another day in EVE Online.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Another First For ASCN - EVE Online

Found at Kill Ten Rats.
The first Titan has been built and it was Ascendant Frontier that made it happen. It’s a pretty big deal, and an even bigger ship. Way to go ASCN! Ars Caelestis (ArsC) is proud to be a part of it all.

I’ll try to add more details as they are released.

- Ethic
As a former member of ArsC and still an active member of their community I must say I am proud also. Even though I am no longer playing EVE Online I still enjoy keeping up on my old corp. Good luck ASCN!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Its 5:40 PM... do you know where your BoB invasion fleet is?

May 3 2006, EVE Online - V2-VC2 (Home system of Huzzah Federation)

It seems that Band of Brothers (BoB), EVE Online's version of an uber guild, has parked a nice little invasion fleet outside our home station in V2-VC2. They seem to be currently setting up a small control tower (player owned structure) that is equivalent to a floating Death Star. It can't be used to attack us directly, but if you get to close to it you can kiss that shiny ship of yours goodbye.

If you haven't sensed it yet... we are in trouble if we don't move fast. We are forming up right now as I post this and it's going to be a hell of day... week.... month depending on how long BoB plans to stick around. If you don't know anything about EVE then you may not understand any of this. It's WAR. It's gritty, overwhelming, and unpredictable chaos. This is the CHANGE that I expect in an MMORPG.

This fight (if it turns into a fight instead of a lot of nothing) will determine our future in EVE Online. We are one of the few, if not the only one, that seem to be willing to fight BoB. BoB unfortunately have a huge hand up on everyone they deem willing to fight because of their broad access to Tech II ships and weapons... along with a massive infrastructure geared directly towards massive WAR support.

If we win... we are sending a message that BoB will not soon forget. Sadly though... this is a small offensive on their part, but is still bigger than anything any other EVE alliance could muster.